Agartala: Amidtight security arrangements and accusations of political violence, voting for the Agartala Municipal corporation (AMC) and 12 other Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) of Tripura began on Thursday morning.
TMC state convenor Subal Bhownik has alleged that the BJP backed supports are threatening the voters in many places were forced to return home.
“Our candidates are facing attack in several place by the BJP goons. Since last night they have created an atmosphere of terror so that people do not turn out at the pooling stations,” Bhowmik said.
The polling began at 7 am and will go on till 4 pm. A total of 785 candidates from all the parties are in fray in these 13 ULBs. The counting of votes will take place on November 28.
A total 644 polling stations have been set up across these ULBs where voting is currently underway. Of these, 370 polling stations have been identified as ‘A” category and the rest ‘B’ category.
The Tripura police has deployed 2 companies of Border Security Force (BSF) and 500 Tripura State Rifles (TSR) jawans in addition to the regular security deployment following the Supreme Court intervention.
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State Election Commission Secretary Pallab Bhattacharya said a total of 53.53 per cent of the 5.94 lakh voters exercised their franchise till 1 pm.
He said that no reports of violence or EVM malfunctioning has been reported so far, even though opposition TMC and CPI (M) alleged that their party workers and supporters were attacked and prevented from casting their votes.
Two companies of Border Security Force and 500 Tripura State Rifles personnel have been deployed as per Supreme Court directive in addition to the previous deployment, the official said.
Subal Bhowmik, state convener of the TMC steering committee said, “Residences of several TMC candidates were attacked last night and attempts were made to set their houses on fire. At least five party workers have been attacked and our supporters have been prevented from casting their votes. Police is standing as a silent spectator to these incidents.”
Alleging that law and order in Tripura has collapsed, Bhowmik said, “The BJP has mocked the entire election process and sheltered goons for their political ends. But they will have to face the electorate in the future. We will mobilise people against this anti-people party and its leaders who have mocked democracy in the state.”
The TMC has claimed that at least 20 EVMs had malfunctioned in Agartala during the beginning of the elections.
CPI (M) leader Phulon Bhattacharjee also alleged that voters have been threatened to vote for the BJP.
“In my long political career, I have never seen such things. Voters are being openly threatened,” she said.
However, the ruling BJP denied the allegations.
“The TMC and the CPI (M) are frustrated and making baseless allegations because they know that they would be defeated,” BJP spokesperson Nabendu Bhattacharya said.
The BJP has already won 112 of the total 334 seats uncontested in Agartala Municipal Corporation (AMC) and 19 other civic bodies in the state.
Polling is being held in 222 seats across six nagar panchayats, seven municipal councils and AMC. Counting of votes will be held on November 28.
The Supreme Court on Thursday directed the Union Ministry of Home Affairs to provide two additional companies of the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) to secure every polling booth during the Tripura civic polls.
BJP has already won 112 seats uncontested
Earlier, the BJP had won in 112 seats and seven uncontested out of 20 ULBs as no other political parties filed their candidates. The civic body polls were due last December after the tenure ended but due to the COVID-19 outbreak the polls were postponed by the state election commission.
Meanwhile, Sadar Sub-Divisional Police Officer, Ramesh Yadav told reports that voting in underway amidst tight security across Agartala and no untoward incidents have been reported so far.
Tripura elections and violence reports
TMC officials on Thursday claimed that a party worker was beaten up in ward number 5 in Agartala, the state capital. However, the police could not confirm any untoward incidents.
CPI(M) state secretary Jiten Chaudhary also alleged that the ruling party was indulging in voter intimidation in south Tripura district and obstructing party workers from functioning freely.
The ruling BJP denied these allegations and its spokesperson Nabendu Bhattacharya on Thursday said Utsaber mejaj e vote hocche (Vote has begun on a celebratory spirit).
The run-up to the polls, which should have been a humdrum affair, became a cause celebre after it was marred by violence, arrests, sit-ins in far-away Delhi and a Supreme Court intervention asking officials to ensure peaceful polling.
The TMC factor
The electoral battle has the ruling BJP locked in battle with the Trinamool Congress, which is foraying into the Northeast and elsewhere to establish itself as a national party, and with the CPI(M) which the saffron party had dethroned from power in this state some years ago. The ruling BJP, which has fielded candidates in all seats in Tripura civic elections, has already won 112 out of the total 334 seats uncontested in the Agartala Municipal Corporation (AMC) and 19 urban bodies.
Nevertheless, a three-way battle is expected to ensue for the remaining seats, given the high voltage drama witnessed in the run up to the elections, which saw TMC sending its top leaders to Tripura and BJP fighting back politically.
For TMC a strong footprint in Agartala and elsewhere in the northeastern state is essential as it hopes to topple BJP in Tripura’s state election in 2023 and also emerge as a strong opposition to the BJP on a national scale.
TMC which has also forayed into Goa and Meghalaya is expected to be strengthened in the northeast with 12 Congress MLAs joining it later on Thursday. A total of 785 contestants are in the fray for the remaining 222 seats after 36 candidates withdrew their nominations. Altogether there are 334 seats in the urban local bodies, including Agartala Municipal Corporation (51 wards), 13 Municipal Councils, and six Nagar Panchayats across the state.
Thirty-six candidates, including 15 candidates of the opposition CPI-M, four of Trinamool Congress (TMC), eight of Congress, two of the AIFB, and seven Independent candidates withdrew their nominations, an official said.
Ambassa Municipal Council, Jirania Nagar Panchayat, Mohanpur Municipal Council, Ranirbazar Municipal Council, Bishalgarh Municipal Council, Udaipur Municipal Council and Santirbazar Municipal Council have no opposition candidates.
A total of 5, 94,772 voters are eligible to cast their votes in the civic poll and the number of women voters outnumber male voters in urban areas.
TMC youth leader Saayoni Ghosh, who was arrested on charges of criminal intimidation and attempt to murder, was on Monday granted bail by the court of Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate in West Tripura district.
The West Bengal Trinamool Youth Congress president was on Sunday arrested on charges of criminal intimidation, attempt to murder, and promotion of disharmony between groups after she raised the party’s ‘khela hobe’ (game will be played) slogan outside a meeting being addressed by the state Chief Minister Biplab Deb.
The TMC leadership claimed several party activists came under attack when they had gathered outside the police station, where Ghosh was taken after her arrest.
The state has been witnessing protests and violence in the run-up to the polls. CPI(M)’s Chaudhury alleging that the party’s candidates were forced to withdraw their nominations “due to terror let loose by goons” owing allegiance to the BJP.
Days ahead of municipal body elections in Tripura, two rebel MLAs of the ruling BJP in the state on Tuesday also alleged that the recent political violence in Tripura has tarnished the reputation of the party and Prime Minister Narendra Modi which might influence the saffron party’s poll prospects in the assembly elections in five states.
The MLAs, Sudip Roy Burman and Asish Saha, told a press conference here that the country’s apex court, Tripura High Court, and even Union Home Minister Amit Shah had to intervene in the recent political violence ahead of the civic polls.
A delegation of TMC MPs had also met Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Monday alleging police violence in Tripura after a sit-in in front of the home ministry.
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